Dedicated department vital to preserving native languages, says Ongkili

KOTA KINABALU: A dedicated department must be set up to protect and preserve native languages before they go extinct, says Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) said it was now becoming harder to find anyone who could converse well in native languages, especially among the younger generation.

"As such, it is vital to have a proper department that will protect and preserve all native languages in Sabah," he said on Friday (May 13).

Speaking at the launching of the Matunggong Harvest Festival in Kudat district, he said funds could be appropriately channelled through the department to be disbursed to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for the preservation of native languages.

Meanwhile, Ongkili said he also supported the call by Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan for an ethnic language month to promote and preserve the native languages of Sabah.

Pairin, who is Huguan Siou (paramount leader), made the call while speaking Kadazandusun during the kick-off for the month-long Pesta Kaamatan celebration in Keningau on May 1.

Ongkili, who is also the KDCA deputy president and Kota Marudu KDCA chairman, said that ethnic Kadazandusun, Murut, Rungus (KDMR) related contests would be organised to promote the languages among the young.

"Kota Marudu KDCA will be organising speech, storytelling, and debate competitions, just to mention a few, all in the KDMR languages.

"We hope this will not just promote, but spark interest among the young to learn the languages," he said.

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